Wednesday, September 13, 2006

How to Make Your Own Custom Rhinestone Pattern

Rhinestones aren't for line dancing anymore! They've become popular with hip clothing labels like Bebe and Baby Phat. But if you are like me and are not willing to pay high prices for name brands (especially brands you are not even into), I offer you this alternative. DIY – Do It Yourself.

Hot-fix rhinestones have made it easier to work with rhinestones. These are stones with a little glob of dried glue on the back. After placing the rhinestone on your garment or item, you heat it up with a BeJeweler tool or with transfer film and a standard iron. A BeJeweler looks like a soldering iron, and has interchangeable tips for different sized stone. It's a bit costly, and requires that you be good at freehand art to place your stones in the right place. Or, you can mark your garment with erasable pen (which I decided against since I was using a black shirt). So the transfer method suited my needs best, and that is what I will describe here.

This is breakdown of the various steps I will go into detail on.

  1. Make your pattern

    1. You will need a computer, a digital picture of what you want your pattern to be of, and photo editing software such as Photoshop (I use Photoshop in this tutorial.) ADDED 9-19 - you can get a free imaging program here . I hear it's the best of the free software. I have never tried it, so I won't be able to offer any help

  2. Buy your supplies

    1. If you do not have supplies already, wait to do this AFTER you have a pattern. That way you will know how much of each color crystals you will need.

  3. Apply crystals to transfer film.
  4. Iron design onto garment or item

Make Your Pattern

Open your image in your photo editor. Set your ruler to display inches. Create a new layer – this will be the layer for your dot pattern.

Select your brush tool. Change the tip so that it is the same size as the crystal you want to use. The most commonly used size is 3mm, but they range from 2mm to 7mm.

Start laying down dots equidistant apart, in the new layer. Since I knew I was going to be using quite a lot of crystals, I created new layers with 25 dots on each. This allowed me to easily count them later.

After you are done, hide the original graphic layer so that the dots are on a white background. Then invert the canvas horizontally (in Photoshop, this is under Image / Rotate Canvas / Flip Canvas Horizontally.)

Now, print out your pattern.

Buy your supplies

Now it's time to buy your supplies. To save money – unless you plan on making tons of rhinestone shirts – you should count the number of studs you will need based on the pattern you made.

Another cost-saving factor is deciding whether you want real Swarovski crystals, or just nailheads or rhinestuds. Swarovski's are the most brilliant of studs – they reflect and refract light like a prism. Rhinestuds emulate the cut of a crystal, but are painted with a metallic paint. Nailheads are smooth and dome shaped on top. Here is a comparison photo I took of a 4mm and 2mm Swarovski crystal, and a 3mm rhinestud

Although rhinestuds are not as vibrant as crystals, they can pass very nicely and is a cheap alternative for projects that require a lot of studs.

You will also need to buy, if you don't have these already:

- Silicone transfer film

- Honey Pot with Crystal Stick. This is a little pot of wax and a tapered stick used for picking up and placing studs. It's a lot easier than using tweezers, but you can try tweezers too.

- Optional – protective PTFE sheets that go between your design and your iron, but I found that a clean pillowcase works just as well.

- Item you want to stick the rhinestones on, like t-shirt or jeans.

Here are some recommended sites I have actually bought from, and can vouch for their good service: - for Swarovski crystals, rhinestuds, nailheads, silicone transfer sheets, Honey Pot - for blank shirts (thanks to Ed for the link!) They also have hats, bags, and misc. household items – for blank shirts, jackets, hats, bags, blankets, aprons, towels – for their own branded blank apparel. However, it's a little pricy if you do not have a wholesaler's license.

Apply crystals to transfer film

Once you have all your supplies, you can start the fun part. Cut a piece of transfer film about half an inch larger than your design. Peel the white backing off. Place it over your design, sticky side UP. Tape it to your paper.

Place studs one by one, onto the transfer paper, with the glue side UP.

Carefully remove the transfer paper and check your design. Make any adjustments if needed – placement, wrong colors, etc.

Iron design onto garment or item

Preheat your iron to approximately 280-300 degrees (on my iron, I don't have degrees labeled. So I used Cotton with no steam.)

Place the transfer on your garment where you want it, sticky side DOWN.

Place a PTFE sheet or clean pillowcase over the transfer.

Heat the transfer evenly with the iron for about 30 seconds (if using a pillowcase). If you are using PTFE sheets, 12-15 seconds for 3mm and 4mm studs. Longer for larger studs.

Allow garment to cool, and carefully peel back the transfer sheet. If any rhinestones are loose, replace the transfer sheet and iron again. You can use the tip of the iron for a more precise placement, or this is where a BeJeweller would be handy.


You now have a shirt that cost half, even less, than those name brands, that looks just as good AND has your own personal graphic on it. Woot!


Anonymous said...

what a fantastic site, you have just showed me how to customise my 3yr and 1yr olds clothes which is what I have wanted to do for so long. You should charge people for looking as it is the VERY best one out there!!!!

khrome said...

Wow thank you so much!! I'm glad I was able to help. You know, for a while there I was worried because I noticed that a lot of people were searching for rhinestone tips, and I'm sure they were looking for an easier method - like software that will generate the dots for you. I know that *I* would love such a thing. :-) So I'm glad these instructions are actually not too cumbersome for people.

I can't take all the credit since half the instructions were by Creative Crystal. I came up with the Photoshop part. :-)

Thanks for checking out my site, and for your awsome comment!!!

David said...

Hi There,
Is there a difference between rhinestuds and rhinestones? I read out there that the only difference between Swarovski stones and Rhinestones is that one is made in Russia and the latter in The Tchech republic, thanks! Great site by the way!

khrome said...

Hi David,
Thanks, I'm glad you like my post! I just noticed that half of my pictures are broken - sorry about that. I'll fix them in a moment.

Rhinestuds are solid, colored, metal. Imagine metal studs like those usually used on leather, but really tiny and shaped like gems rather than rounded. When they reflect light, it is the color of the stone, whereas a crystal will reflect a spectrum of different colors.

I have found that real Swarovski's have the best brilliance. I tried an imitation brand, and it only reflected white light, like glass does. Swarovski's reflect light like diamonds. Also, the faces of the imitations were not cut evenly and some even had chips on them.

Not all imitations are bad, but if you get them I recommend buying a small sample just to check out the quality before buying a whole bunch.

David said...

Hi again, Thanks for your prompt reply and for explaining this to me. I have another question for you. I know about the hotfix applicators etc.. but i saw an application that seem to use air to suck the stone on the tip of the applicator, this person was making a Swarovski crystal panel and was picking the stones up one by one painlessly and resting them down on a sketch, do you know of any such equipment? do you know the proper procedure to make crystal panels? thanks again for any help you might have

khrome said...

Hi David,
I'm not sure what a crystal panel is, so unfortunately I don't know anything about the process to make one.

I vaguely remember something about an air-based applicator, but I couldn't find anything on the web when I searched for it today. I think the one I remember is just a tube that is closed on one end, open on the other end, and somewhere along the side of the tube is another hole. You would put the open end over the crystal, and cover the side hole. When you are ready to release the crystal, you just uncover the side hole. But this is just as flawed as using tweezers because you have to move your fingers. The more you move your fingers, the more likely you will place the crystal in the wrong spot.

The honeypot (now called the Rhinestone Pickup Stick) works better because you hold it like a pencil - press down to pick up, and press down to release. Here is the link - I'll have to update my blog with it's new name. :-)

Patton said...

Thanks for tha site! But I was wondering if you could do the same with a picture?? Like turn a picture into metallic studs. But if you know if you can do this or not, tell me.. Thanks!!

khrome said...

Hi Patton - I'm not sure what you mean by using a picture. Do you mean like a photograph? Since you are manually laying down the dots, I'm going to say yes but some artistic know-how about colors is required. I suppose you can convert your photo to four tones and use metal studs that match the tones. I haven't tried this though.

TheTinyDancer said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I've been struggling to find quality rhinestone iron on's- poor design quality, lead filled rhinestones, too darn expensive, the list goes on!- so I finally decided to try to find an efficient way to make them myself. Can't wait to get started. I'll be able to give my customers the designs they want at a price they can afford!

khrome said...

Hi TinyDancer! You're welcome! The crystals from this store are great, especially the Swarovski's. They are so brilliant! My pictures do not do them justice because it's hard to capture all the light from the stones. The light ends up looking white in photos, but they are really different colors in real life, kind of like how a diamond refracts light. I actually started preferring the smaller stones because the big ones (like in the DDR arrows shirt) were so bright. I felt like a disco ball. :-)

Birdieanne said...

Thanks for including the Photoshop instructions. I heard someone mention that you could do it with the software but it was great to see the steps. Do you know if the transfer paper will work with an hot fix applicator wand? Thanks.

khrome said...

Hi Birdianne, First - sorry it took me so long to reply to your post. The notification email kind of got lost in my inbox. :/

When you put the rhinestones on the transfer paper, you should use tweezers, or the stick I used in my example - nothing hot because you don't want the glue to melt. After you place the pattern and transfer paper on to your shirt, you should be able to use a hot fix wand to heat the individual rhinestones. In fact, I think that is a really good idea, as I have had problems with some rhinestones not sticking when I use an iron. :-) Let me know how it goes!

Women Leather Coats said...

what a fantastic site, you have just showed me how to customise my 3yr and 1yr olds clothes which is what I have wanted to do for so long. You should charge people for looking as it is the VERY best one out there!!!!

Lisa said...

I found this very helpful. I can't wait to get started on my own rhinestone clothing. Rhinestones t-shirts are great for gifts. Thank you for this.

Ilona said...

can this be done by placing rhinestones onto a phone case without using the iron and still using the transfer film?

Ilona said...

would this be possible by using the transfer film and placing the rhinestones on to phone cases without using any hot tools?

khrome said...

Hi Ilona, I think it would be very tricky but you might be able to do it if the design is small, or you work in smaller sections of a larger design one at a time. The reason being is because the only way I know how to affix rhinestones without hot glue is with regular glue. So you would have to lay-out your pattern on the transfer paper, put a drop of glue on each rhinestone and flip the whole thing over, getting it onto the correct spot on the first try. I think it might be too messy and troublesome than it's worth.

I think your best bet is to use tweezers or stick like I show here to place each rhinestone individually right onto your case. But here's an idea that might make things go faster (I haven't tried this though.) Put a piece of carbon paper on your case, carbon side down. Place your printed pattern on top. Use a pen or pencil to mark over each rhinestone dot. When you remove the two sheets, the pattern should have transferred on to the case. Now it will be faster and easier to place your rhinestones in the right spot. If you try this and it works for you, let me know. :-)

Mary said...


This tutorial is just what I was looking for. I needed to make a mother of the bride shirt for a friend with my crystals.

Could you tell me, what size brush tool pixel size you use for 3mm, 4mm and 5mm crystals? I was trying to figure it out and just couldn't.

Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial!

Mary :)

khrome said...

Hi Mary, Thanks! I'm glad you found this helpful. Unfortunately, I don't have the Photoshop file anymore to look that info up. But here's something that might work to help you determine the brush size - in a new document, put dots using different brush sizes, and label each one with the text tool so you know what size they are. Print the page, then compare the crystal size to the dots on the paper. Let me know if this works for you! :-)

Mary said...

Thanks so much! I'll try that soon and let you know. :)

Anonymous said...

Someone earlier was looking for the "air" Rhinestone Applicator for hot fix crystals. I found one at Mesa Supplies in Fort Worth, TX for $99.00. Here's the link: and the Part # is: HotfixWand "Glitz Up Rhinestone Applicator Tool"

Now for my question:
Can you advise how to layout word patterns in Microsoft Word?


khrome said...

Hi Anon,
Thanks for the info! I'm sure that will be helpful to them.

As far as Word, you can't flip text or mirror it unless it's a graphic. So you would still need another program to create the graphic, even if it's just text. Here a is a Microsoft support page that explains how you can do this with Microsoft WordArt. Unfortunately, I don't have any experience using that program but I hope this helps.